Learning to drive, but I ain’t got wheels…

At age 29, it’s finally time to think about learning to drive. 

There are certain rights of passage that generally mark ones transition from teenhood into adulthood. For most of us, these include such activities as moving out of your parent’s house, losing your virginity, maybe going to college, and usually learning how to drive a car… Well, good reader, I somehow managed to skip over this last one, and have just today, in the middle of my 29th year and for the first time, obtained my Learner’s Licence to begin learning how to drive. Hurrraaaaaaaay.

One might wonder how I avoided this particular milestone for so long. Well, it’s simple really…

When I was 16, I took the test once, and failed it. I was so much of a keener in highschool that my extra-curriculars were in direct and constant conflict with the operating hours of the DMV, thus making it nearly impossible for me to retake the test. Let’s not forget the fact that I was also joined at the hip to the love of my teen life, who happened to always have access to his mother’s ’66 Comet, so who needed to drive anyways? This combined with the fact that both of my parents are CRAZY, and not only would it have been horrible to learn to drive from either of them, I believe that they both actually outright refused to teach me. Eight months after turning 16, I moved to the big city (Vancouver) to attend university. Here, not only was there noone who legally could teach me how to drive, there was also no need. I lived on campus at the time, and in the years that followed once I moved away from school, my bicycle coupled with the city’s transit system served me well.

Of course there were moments when a licence would have been helpful… for instance, that time when two girlfriends and I were giddily planning a roadtrip down the coast to California until we realized that none of us could drive. THE END. It would have also been useful when my friend Ayma and I took a whirlwind trip from Whitehorse to Dawson City in the Yukon and back in two days; Ayma was the sole driver for 10 hours each way. My job was to keep her company, shuffle through the three good songs that we had found on the collection of CDs in her mom’s car, and shotgun a beer at every rest stop for her amusement. Then there has also been every time I have ever moved; many times begging a friend to drive to the waterslides in the summer; and let’s not forget, every time I have ever needed to get anything from IKEA.

All of these events were irritating, but not quite irritating enough. Plus there was still the fact that in Vancouver, I would need to either shell out a bagillion dollars for driving lessons, or have a friend who was over 25 who had a full licence and also had a car to teach me how to drive (this combination was exceedingly rare).

Lately though, as “I’ll have my licence by the time I’m 26” turned into 27, and 28, and 29… it seemed like more and more pressing of an issue. I mean, what if I wanted to take a roadtrip on my own one day? What happens when I have a baby? Would I always have to rely on the kindness of friends to get to IKEA? These questions kept swirling around in my brain until one sunny weekday afternoon when I decided that this was it. Also, as I pushed 30, more and more of my friends had cars and were also pushing 30 themselves. IT WAS FINALLY TIME TO GET MY LEARNER’S LICENCE.

After a short 30 minute study, a quick trip over to the DMV, and a few *beep, bop, boops* on a computer touch screen later, I was finally legally allowed to get behind the wheel of a car and drive (albeit under strict supervision). After being congratulated by the clerk at the DMV and sent on my merry way, I wondered why it had taken me so long. Fear? Laziness? Who knows…

But from this day forward, July 16th, 2012 will be known as the day that Altaira Rebekkah Jude Northe took her first steps towards learning how to drive.



I guess that I started this a while ago with the hopes that just creating a blog basically about nothing or anything, that it would just encourage me to write. I guess that I was wrong.

Then last month, I went to a Creative Mornings Vancouver talk with Jessica Hische. She spoke about the intersection of art and tech, and really just drove home the whole mantra that you just have to get out there and do shit. It’s not going to do itself. And also, at the end of the day, it’s really not very hard. YOU JUST HAVE TO STOP BEING LAZY AND AFRAID.

So there is my springboarding point of inspiration. I was going to do it. I was going to sit down and write, and I was also going to make a beautiful website by learning to code myself rather than waiting around for someone to do it for me. I was going to do it that very weekend. Or so I thought…

As it turns out, on top of being lazy about writing, I am also lazy about updating my operating system. dun dun DUN. It is Summer 2012, and I am ashamed to admit that I am still running on Leopard. Not SNOW Leopard… just the regular kind. To my dismay, there is NO html text editor that is crappy enough to still be running on this OS. Undaunted, I thought to myself. NO PROBLEM! I will just download it now!

The problem with this is that Apple does not appreciate lazy assholes who don’t continuously update their software and devices compulsively, and so it was not possible for me to download Snow Leopard from the Internet. In fact, it was not even possible for me to mosey down to the Apple store to purchase it. No, dear reader, the only way for me to update my sad OS was to order a CD and have them ship it to me at home within 7-10 business days.

My dream was allayed, albeit temporarily. But “never fear”, I thought, “what’s a week?!”

Enter UPS.

You would think that a company that is built on delivering things to people personally, would make some real attempt to actually make this happen in some sort of reasonable and organized way. You would be wrong. After three attempts to deliver my package to my home in the middle of the day while I was at work, I finally got the notice “call to arrange for pickup”. “Great!”, I thought, “Now I can just head down to the nearest UPS office after work, and I will finally have a (slightly) updated computer! Victory is mine!”

I cheerfully called UPS to find out where my pickup location would be. I was greeted by a robot who asked me various questions, and after having punched in various combinations of numbers, spat out an address where I could pick up my package. But the location was not near my home. It as actually not even accessible by transit. In fact, the google maps suggestion was for me to hop on the skytrain and take it 30 minutes out of town, then get off the skytrain, and walk for another 30 minutes before getting to the UPS pickup point. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!?!

I explained to the robot that this was unacceptable, and shortly after it hung up on me. I decided that maybe I would make more progress online. After 20 minutes of searching, I found the option to change the delivery address. WONDERFUL! Or it would have been, if I hadn’t gotten an error message several minutes later that this option was not available to me and that I needed to call to talk to their lovely customer service robot again. Maybe she could actually help me this time.

20 more minutes later, after much button punching and various attempts at yelling “real person”, “customer service agent” “no” “shutup” “I hate you” at the robot, I was finally connected to a real human being. YAY! This person will be able to help me! Oh, how I was wrong.

Not only did I find out that there was no way to change the delivery location to my place of work, but there was also no way to set up any sort of time block in which the UPS agent would stop by. “Anywhere between 9am and 7pm” was as specific as they could be.

“Ummm… well, I have a job, so that isn’t possible. I can’t actually be home for 10 hours straight.”

“Welll… we CAN ask the agent to TRY to be there around a certain time, but there is no guarantee that that will happen”

“Sooooo… is there any point in asking you to ‘designate’ a time, or is this just something that you’re saying to try to make me feel like you’re actually doing something about this problem”

“Well… we CAN ask the agent to TRY to be there around a certain time, but there is no guarantee that that will happen”

“that is the exact same thing that you just said”


“Also, my buzzer does not work, so can you please have them call me when they arrive.”

“We can’t guarantee that the UPS employee will have a phone on them when they arrive, so we can’t actually arrange that”

“… OK, well I guess that they could try throwing pebbles at my window, but that probably won’t work out very well.”

This went on for a while and finally ended something like this:

“So what you’re telling me is that it’s actually completely  impossible for me to get this package, and there is no way that you can try to make that more convenient or even remotely in the realm of a possible thing that can happen”

“Well, I will make a note to ask them to maybe stop by before a certain time, and to try to call you if they have a phone, but I can’t guarantee either of those things, so I suggest that you just sit outside of the front door to your building for ten hours straight waiting for us to show up whenever” (this last part is only SLIGHTLY paraphrased)


So here I am, sitting at home, waiting and hoping for them to show up. It is already three hours past the ‘suggested time’, and I am hungry and angry and I need to leave my apartment to get a cup of coffee, but I know that this will be the exact moment that they will arrive.

As an aside, Apple’s customer service was no more helpful.

Let’s see if I ever get this thing!

Lesson: If you wait too long to update your OS, UPS and Apple will conspire to make it easier for you to buy a brand new computer than to update your current one.